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Hirsch, I. (1997). Analytic intimacy, analysability and the vulnerable analyst. Free Associations, 7(2):250-259.

(1997). Free Associations, 7(2):250-259

Analytic intimacy, analysability and the vulnerable analyst

Irwin Hirsch

In The Spirit of Harold Searles, I will begin with a personal anecdote. One year prior to my wish to start psychoanalytic training, I decided to begin personal analysis. My paltry postdoctoral fellow's stipend required me to see a therapist who needed a training case and a colleague recommended someone whom he was seeing at a very reduced fee and who apparently needed one more training patient in order to complete his psychoanalytic training. The institute was a prestigious one and the man was an experienced therapist and not especially young. The externals sounded good to me, we met and had what I felt to be a fairly innocuous but certainly not unpleasant interview. At the end of the initial meeting I was informed that my prospective analyst could not see me as a training patient; indeed, he did not view me as analysable since his diagnosis of me was ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ (this was pre-Kohut). He went on to say that such a diagnostic category precluded analysis and recommended that I seek psychotherapy — elsewhere. I thought that my desired career as a psychoanalyst was over until the conclusion of my next meeting with another analyst. When he accepted me as a patient I nearly jumped into his arms.

My directly personal revelations end here. Whether or not I was or am currently a ‘narcissistic personality disorder” is secondary. The analyst in question, I am convinced, did not like me as a person and certainly did not wish to spend years with me darkening his doorstep four times each week, at a low fee to boot. This experience was the first which led me down a theoretical path of perspectivism and away from the view of psychoanalysis as objective science. Judgements of fitness for analysis are based on the subjectivity of the analyst as well as the external criteria belonging to the patient. Diagnosis as well may be readily influenced by the personal sentiments of the diagnosis maker.

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